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On the Wednesday evening of SXSW 2014, I stopped by the Force Field PR Showcase at Maggie Mae’s for a chat with Scottish troubadour Withered Hand, aka Dan Willson. In one of the few quiet interviews I had in Austin, I asked Willson about his latest album, ‘New Gods’, and found him to be very forthcoming about his songwriting and recording process, his stage moniker, and his reasons for continuing his career in music.
I found it very interesting indeed that Willson was able give such a thoughtful and philosophical interview just before going on stage and giving what turned out to be an upbeat and lively performance. I was delighted to hear several of my personal favorite tunes from ‘New Gods’, including ‘Black Tambourine’, ‘Horseshoe’, and ‘King of Hollywood’, and only mildly disappointed that Willson and his band didn’t play ‘Heart Heart’ after we discussed it during the interview. (Have a listen to it below and form your own opinion.)
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 21st March 2014 at 12:00 pm
London band Longfellow were a long way from home Thursday night when they played the BBC Introducing night curated by indie music champion Steve Lamacq. However, when Lammo comes calling, you answer. Playing their first-ever show in the States in front of a rammed Latitude 30 at the British Music Embassy must have been nerve-wracking, but I was so pleased that three of their band – singer Owen Lloyd, guitarist James Thomas and drummer Tom Warhurst – were on hand and willing to sit down with me to chat about coming over for SXSW 2014 and what it meant to them to be playing such a momentous night, how they got signed to indie label Fierce Panda and the stories behind some of their most anthemic songs to date. Listen below.
Many thanks to the guys for chatting with me after their set!
As we hope you’ve already read, Mary and I spent the early part of our Wednesday of SXSW 2014 at the dark and hollow Empire Control Room for the iHeart Austin showcase (read Mary’s full recap here). Mary’s enthusiasm was still at full throttle, but by this point in the week, I was in desperate need of coffee and sunshine. We arrived early for the show, and luckily I was able to get a quick fix of both before the afternoon’s activities got underway.
I wasn’t familiar with any of the bands listed for the showcase, except of course for The Crookes, so I tried to go in with open ears and an open mind. This attitude helped me to discover two things: (1) the need for a set of earplugs, which I had to purchase in Austin because I didn’t own any, and (2) a new-to-me band based in Echo Park, California, called simply NO.
As I tweeted during their show, NO is a definite yes. This 6-piece band had a huge guitar sound, especially in the sparsely populated Control Room (this was a daytime show, and there was another gig going on outside), which necessitated the earplugs mentioned above. They reminded us a tiny bit of The National, in no small part due to the deep, menacing baritone of lead singer Bradley Hanan Carter, but also for their broodingly melancholic lyrics. Where The National are refined and restrained, NO are often more visceral and emotional, using their full array of instruments to greater dynamic and dramatic effect.
I was able to catch Carter after NO’s set for a very brief interview before he had to hurry off to their next engagement. The venue was incredibly noisy but we managed to get a quick soundbite about the band’s album, ‘El Prado’, which is out now on Arts and Crafts Records. Have a listen to the first track from the album, ‘Leave The Door Wide Open’, at the bottom of the page.
NO are Bradley Hanan Carter (vocals), Sean Daniel Stentz (bass), Reese Richardson (guitar), Ryan Lallier (guitar/keys), Simon Oscroft (guitar) and Michael Walker (drums). They are currently on tour in North America.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 20th March 2014 at 11:00 am
We all had heavy hearts after the tragic drink driving accident at the Mohawk on Wednesday night. However, everyone admirably soldiered on Thursday. I think a lot of us felt like we had renewed purpose to live life to the fullest and not get too down by the freak accident that marred an otherwise joyous week of music for music lovers.
Part of my effort to go back to ‘business as usual’ was to seek out a band that I had not yet seen but had heard so much about. Harlow’s Morning Parade, playing their last show at SXSW 2014 before they headed out on a drive to South Carolina for another music festival on the East Coast, went down a treat at the Universal Music Group afternoon showcase at the Palm Door on 6th and I was lucky to grab Steve Sparrow (vocals, guitar; above centre) and Ben Giddings (keys; above right) for a quick chat before they went into post-SXSW celebration mode. Thanks very much guys for chatting with me!
Photos by editor Mary Chang
The first official day of the SXSW 2014 Music Festival began somewhat slowly for us at TGTF. Most of the official showcases were slated to begin in the evening, so we spent the day picking up our press wristbands and getting acquainted with downtown Austin. Our fearless editor Mary is a seasoned SXSW veteran, and she knew I would need a quick orientation before the action really got started. She showed me around to all the venues I’d need to know, along with a few other places of interest, and once we were done, we had some free time. Naturally we found ourselves gravitating to the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30, where we’d attended the Creative Belfast event the previous night and where we would end up passing through many times in the course of our week in Austin.
When we walked into the venue on Tuesday, we caught the end of a set by a band that neither of us knew, but whose singer looked vaguely familiar. Intrigued by their soulful sound, I asked around after them and was told that the singer was Belfast-based Travis is a Tourist. I chased the band outside after they finished and asked for an impromptu interview, during which I found out where I’d seen them before and received some surprisingly thoughtful answers to my off-the-cuff questions.
As I discovered in the interview, Travis is a Tourist is currently finishing his second as-yet-untitled EP. His self-titled debut EP can be found on his Bandcamp page, and he has several videos available for viewing on YouTube. The following video, for a track called ‘Paperweight’, was shot by Brian O’Kane, who is also working on the Travis is a Tourist documentary referenced in the interview.
My after-the-fact peek at Travis is a Tourist’s Breaking Tunes page revealed that he has recently toured with Lucy Rose and Nick Mulvey, both of whom have been featured here on TGTF. Coincidentally, I had the opportunity to interview Mulvey before his Communion Music Showcase performance on Friday night; Austin during SXSW truly is a small and weird world!
I wasn’t prepared enough to take photos of Travis is a Tourist during his performance on Tuesday (Mary captured the images seen here), but I did get some shots of him in another context on the Friday. If you’re an astute reader, you might have caught Travis in this photo of Mary’s from Monday night as well.
Travis Is A Tourist (far left) with Rams’ Pocket Radio.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 18th March 2014 at 11:00 am
Last week when TGTF were in Austin for SXSW, I caught up with Glaswegian pop / dance band Prides (Stewart Brock on keys and lead vox; Callum Wiseman on guitar, keys and backing vocals; and Lewis Gardner on drums) after their rousing set as part of the Tuesday night programming the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 that was curated by none other than Radio 1’s beloved Welsh teddy bear Huw Stephens. They chat to me about their New Wave, “strong ’80s influence”, the era of Biffy imitators in Glasgow and where we should all go to see gigs at in their hometown. There is much more of course. Listen to the interview in full below.
If you live in America, they will be touring the East Coast with RAC through to the end of March; see all the dates here.
Cheers guys and thank you to Ally for this lovely interview. Best wishes for the rest of your American tour!